Musings on Immigration

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Why A Corporate Immigration Policy is Important for Every Employer

Corporate Immigration Policies: A Survey

Immigration is a key component of many companies forward-looking strategy for workplace competitiveness. American employers who currently hired foreign national workers, and those who plan to do so in the future, need to have a formal corporate immigration policy to ensure that they are competitive in the marketplace and can attract and hold top foreign talent.

A US employer can legally hire foreign nationals under a variety of visa categories, but each visa category has one commonality--many of these foreign national employees want to remain permanently in the United States.  Just as important, given training and lost opportunity costs associated with departing "star" employees, most companies want to keep the foreign talent they have already sponsored for a work visa. 

Give the lengthy waiting period for so many immigrant visa categories, many employees want to start as soon as possible on their "green card" process.  At the same time, before a company spends a considerable amount of money on that same process they want to be sure that the employee is one worth keeping!  These competing interests are the primary reason why having a corporate immigration policy is necessary.  This policy puts every potential employee (and their managers and recruiters) on notice of what it will take to be "sponsored" and how long an employee needs to be employed before that process starts.  

In order to be competitive in their industry, many companies want to know the immigration policies of their competitors and their industry.  The Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Kuck Immigration Partners is a member, conducted a survey of our members' experience with corporate immigration policies to try to provide a better outlook of where corporate immigration policies lay in 2014.  

The survey requested information from ABIL member firms regarding their corporate clients’ policies on such topics as: (1) how long a foreign national employee would have to work for the company before sponsorship would be started; (2) whether that timing has changed since the height of the financial crisis; and (3) whether there are contingencies on initiating/continuing the green card sponsorship process.

Here is a summary of our Corporate Immigration Policy Survey:
  • The majority of ABIL members that responded to the survey (66%) reported that their client companies wait one year before starting the green card process.  The next highest percentage responded that their clients wait more than 1 year; the third highest reported a wait of six months.
  • When asked whether this time frame changed since the height of the financial crisis, an equal percentage of respondents reported that the wait time had shortened, as those responding that there was no change to the wait time.
  • When asked about contingencies on starting (or continuing) the process, over 80% of respondents stated that the employee’s manager must “sign off” to have the process initiated.  One-half of respondents stated that an employee on a performance plan or under some other “disciplinary action” would cause the process to be delayed of stopped.
  • One member reported that some client companies have “nomination periods” when managers can nominate certain employees deserving of green card sponsorship.
  • When asked about the payment of green card sponsorship, most members (over 80%) reported that the employer pays all fees and expenses in connection with sponsorship.  The next highest percentage reported that the employer pays all fees for the employee,  but requires the FN employee to pay costs related to family members.  The smallest percentage reported a policy whereby the employer would pay up to a certain amount towards the process and the employee would cover the balance. 
  • When asked about the source of immigration-related costs, the largest percentage (over 90%) reported that the business unit hiring the employee pays for the process.  A few respondents reported situations where the Legal or HR Department would pay.
  • Responses were varied when asked about reimbursement policy.  An equal number of ABIL members reported that their corporate clients had no reimbursement policy as those who reported that their clients had such a policy (where the employee agrees to repay a portion of the costs of sponsorship if the employee leaves the company within a certain time frame after receiving the green card).
A company must also need to take into account that federal regulations make the employer responsible for all fees and costs associated with the PERM labor certification process - the first step in the majority of employment-based green card cases – and such fees may not be reimbursed by the employee, ever.  

We strongly suggest that our employer clients create a corporate immigration policy to ensure consistency across the company in sponsoring employees, and, especially given the metrics captured by USCIS during the immigration process, to ensure that the company is providing consistent information to USCIS and the DOL as it sponsors employees.  An upfront corporate policy will also diminish the threat of key employees resigning to take up employment with more foreign national "friendly” employers.  

If you are considering creating and adopting a corporate immigration policy, call the experts at Kuck Immigration Partners for assistance, suggestions and review to ensure that the policy meets all legal standards, and more importantly, in good for business.  

New Rules for Spouses of H-1B Workers

This morning the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced newly proposed rules that will allow the spouses of highly skilled workers to work in the United States.  This came as welcome news to many eagerly awaiting Obama’s promise of comprehensive immigration reform, which seems to have stalled in Congress. Proposed changes in the regulations aim to attract and retain highly skilled immigrants to the United States, and, as Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker stated, to “unleash more of the extraordinary contributions that immigrants have always made to America’s innovation economy.”  

Presently, spouses of these highly skilled workers are able to enter the U.S. to join their spouses but are not permitted to work.  DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that the proposed change will help keep America strong, enhancing our country’s competitiveness and supporting economic growth by attracting highly trained workers in science, technology and engineering from other countries but stressed that Congress needed to work on a broader immigration solution to address serious deficiencies in the system. 

Critics to the proposed rule change claim it will only harm the millions of jobless Americans. They claim the proposals are an overreach by President Obama, and some assess the proposal as a move taken just to appease the Tech industry.


The proposals will soon be subject to a 60-day period of public comment that could lead to modifications, but DHS officials hope to issue final regulations before the end of 2014.  Proposals such as the one announced today are too small a step for supporters of comprehensive immigration reform, and for those opposed, they are one small step in the wrong direction.